Lake City, Arizona—a city of about 8,000 residents and a suburb of Phoenix—is a ghost town.
That’s the story of a man who says he left his wife and two young daughters in the city for months in 2011, only to find out that he had been taken in by a drug cartel, that he was not welcome, and that he could not return home.
The story of Elton, who fled to the U.S. in 2011 and is now in his 20s, is a cautionary tale for Americans living in the shadow of immigration policies that have brought tens of thousands of people across the border to live in relative safety.
This story is the first of a three-part series examining the consequences of immigration policy on local communities. Lake City—population 1,900—is just one example of how a handful of isolated communities across the United States have been transformed by immigration and the harsh conditions they have created.
For those living in communities of color, the consequences are even more dire.
For many, a lack of job opportunities is an unbearable burden, and the lack of money for basic necessities is a daily struggle.
And for the many families that live in the shadows, the economic impact of immigration is even more devastating.
The story of Elton and the drug cartels That’s how I met Elton.
Elon was born in the Philippines in 1993, but he and his family fled his hometown, El Salvador, in 2001, and ended up in Lake City.
Elton had a knack for getting himself to the hospital for emergency surgery when he was young.
I’m not sure I can remember the exact time when I saw my dad.
I remember him walking down the street, just walking.
I can’t remember the number of times he went to the ER, but I know he went in, and I remember that I could hear him saying, “I’m okay.”
I think that was probably in 2007, 2008.
I think I remember the first time he got sick.
I just remember him having a fever, and then it was a fever.
He had a fever and he just couldn’t get himself to bed, and he couldn’t eat, and there was just so much pain.
I know that’s when I got a little bit of a shock, because he was so sick.
When Elton was about 14, he got the worst of it.
He was in the hospital in El Salvador and I was with my mom.
She was with me.
We were all in bed, so I remember thinking, “Wow, he’s really sick.”
So we all sat on the couch and I think she was on the other side of the bed, too.
I thought she was in a coma, and she was crying.
She said, “Elton, don’t worry.
We’re going to help him.”
She said, you need to get dressed and go get dressed.
She just wanted to get you dressed.
She says, I have a doctor here, so get ready.
I went to her.
I put on a pair of shoes, and a coat, and gloves.
And then I remember, “Oh my God, he is dying.”
We went back to the car.
She got in the car and we drove away.
I had to get him to the emergency room.
I said, You have to go get him.
She says, Okay, I’ll go.
So, I got my mom and Elton to the operating room.
The doctors were shocked that he wasn’t breathing.
They had to put him on a respirator, which I think he needed.
I got the respirator.
I was trying to help, but the doctors were like, Oh, it’s not working.
They were like what?
I was like, I’m sorry, I don’t know what they’re talking about.
I don`t know what it was, but it was like a big white cloud.
I started freaking out.
Then I got on the respirators.
And I remember being very worried because I was thinking that I had died.
It was just horrible.
The nurses and doctors were telling me to get out of the room.
And I just said, No, no.
You need to leave.
I could see the tears in their eyes, and they were just pleading with me to go away.
We got out of there and we went back.
This is when we got the flu.
We got sicker and sicker.
At the time, I had no idea that I would be dying.
I didn’t think about it, I didn`t think about what would happen to my family.
There was nothing to do.
I couldn’t go outside.
I felt like I had been put into a box.
Once I was in ICU, I was on morphine.
I`d been on morphine for weeks. I never